Traverse City Record-Eagle

Feature Columnists

October 17, 2013

Intentional Minimalist: Heirloom beans a fresh take on protein

Most home cooks have not had the pleasure of working with locally grown heirloom beans fresh from the pods. There are thousands of varieties of heirloom beans and each has its own distinct taste and texture.

Fresh shelled heirloom beans generally cost less than other local protein sources and are a substantial source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Heirloom beans truly are a super food.

When at the farmers market, look for bean pods that look fresh, are plump and have no blemishes. You should be able to feel the beans inside the pods. Store fresh bean pods in the refrigerator and use them within a few days. Or you can freeze them on a cookie sheet in a single layer for later use.

Fresh shelled heirloom beans do not need to be soaked like dry beans do before they are simmered. Remember not to add salt during the cooking process as this may toughen the beans.

Farmer Bryan Black of Platte River Gardens in Interlochen grows a wide variety of heirloom beans using sustainable growing practices.

“We focus on heirloom bean varieties which have a natural insect and disease resistance,” Black said. “We select heirloom varieties that look promising. However more importantly, we carefully note consumer reaction to them at markets. The Dragon Tongue variety is a pleasing discovery, customers find the taste and color to be truly outstanding.”

Radish, Pea Shoot and Heirloom Bean Salad

Platte River Gardens coco rubio heirloom beans

9 Bean Rows Farm green onion

Food for Thought olive oil

Black Star Farms verjus

Food for Thought wild star thistle honey

9 Bean Rows Farm radishes

Spring Hollow Farm pea shoots

Hull, wash one cup coco rubio heirloom beans and add beans to a medium metal soup pot with enough water to just cover the beans. Slice one half cup green onion whites and add to soup pot. Cover soup pot, bring beans to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer beans covered for 45 minutes.

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